Calderdale businesses falling victim to 'postcode lottery' over recovery grants

Driving instructors – and some other businesses – are falling victim to a “postcode lottery” when it comes to a COVID-19 recovery grant.

Saturday, 17th April 2021, 12:00 pm
Elland driving instructor Jon Morton, of JBM Driver Training Academy
Elland driving instructor Jon Morton, of JBM Driver Training Academy

Additional Restrictions Grant has been made available by the Government with council discretion over who qualifies, and in Calderdale some businesses believe they are missing out, councillors heard this week.

Driving instructor Jon Morton, of Elland-based JBM Driver Training Academy, also contacted the Local Democracy Reporting Service to say he and fellow Calderdale instructors had been left at a disadvantage compared to those in neighbouring authority Kirklees.

Mr Morton said businesses who did not operate from fixed premises were being prevented from applying for the ARG grant if they were already in receipt of another of the COVID grants schemes, Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

SEISS replaced lost income but does not support ongoing business costs, he said.

He had challenged this with the council who had said West Yorkshire authorities had agreed they would not pay it to those in receipt of SEISS grant – but some including Kirklees had since diverged from this.

Mr Morton said he lived in Elland and more or less across the road in Kirklees colleagues had received £5,000 from their council’s ARG pot.

“It is frustrating because it is putting me at a disadvantage, and people in the same situation as me.

“It would make a big difference – I have used savings paying for a car I can’t use,” he said – driving instructors have only been allowed to work again from this week as lockdown eases (April 12).

Several councillors raised the issue at this week’s meeting of the full Calderdale Council in the section of the meeting where councillors can ask questions of Cabinet members.

Coun George Robinson (Con, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) said several driving instructors had emailed him about the issue and he believed the council should make the award.

“It is a discretionary pot and Calderdale has the ability to do this – can we hurry up and get this funding to businesses requiring it?” he said.

Coun James Baker (Lib Dem, Warley) said he wanted to see equality across the region so people did not end up with a “postcode lottery” system.

But Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot), Cabinet member for Regeneration and Strategy, said the situation was being looked at again.

“There has been some discussion across different councils in terms of the approach regarding SEISS.

“ARG was supposed to be a last resort for those not eligible for other grants, which is how we have done it.

“We are reviewing that very question,” she said.

Since the council meeting Mr Morton said he had been contacted by the council notifying him that an ARG payment of £1,000 would be made to him in the coming days.

Coun Ashley Evans (Lib Dem, Warley) said the situation also applied to independent hairdressers.